Ryan Merkley – Defense
Weight: 165 lbs.
Current Team: Guelph Storm (OHL)
Stats: 63 GP, 13 Goals, 54 Assists, 67 Points, 63 Penalty Minutes, -29
Playoff Stats: 6 GP, 1 Goal, 5 Assists, 6 Points, 10 Penalty Minutes -3
Ian’s Thoughts: This may be one of the most talented kids in the draft. Merkley is an elite skater with quick hands and an excellent stretch pass. When he is on his game he can be nearly impossible to stop when he chooses to carry the puck. His shot selection has all the makings of a first powerplay quarterback in the NHL. His decision making needs work, especially in the defensive zone but his offensive instincts are hard to ignore.
Ians Thought’s – A Controversial Pick
Merkley is probably the most controversial players in the draft this year. The reason for this is two-fold, on the ice his lack of commitment to the defensive side of the game is frustrating. The Storm has been on the wrong side of many unforced turnovers when Merkley tries to do too much or get too cute. Off the ice, there are also issues have scouts concerned as well. It’s important to note however that Merkley’s off-ice issues are hockey related. This is not a player accused of assault of a physical or sexual nature. This isn’t a player who is drunkenly crashing his car into the local Tim Horton’s.
Merkley’s off-ice issues are his temper and a lack of maturity. The question for NHL teams is whether this immaturity is something he will grow out of as he becomes an adult. The criticisms of Merkley is that he often feels he knows what’s best and does not always take kindly to direction. His temper can cause him to lash out on anyone from teammates and coaching staff to officials. This combined with a lack of self-awareness or personal accountability is what fuels his critics. He has also seemed to fall in most rankings after the combine which is not a great sign.
In my opinion, Merkley could be the steal of the draft. The Sharks, however, have never really taken this much of a risk on a player in the first round. This is really the antithesis of an early round pick and I would be absolutely shocked if they rolled the dice on this player. Not having a 2nd or 3rd round pick (as of this writing) also leaves the Sharks with less room for error on this pick.